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Home > SC > Constitutional Law > Environment (Protection) Act > M.C. MEHTA Vs. UNION OF INDIA & OTHERS



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M.C. MEHTA Vs. UNION OF INDIA & OTHERS

Posted on 17 June 2009 by jyoti

Title

M.C. MEHTA Vs. UNION OF INDIA & OTHERS



Coram

VENKATARAMIAH, E.S. (J)



Act

Environment (Protection) Act



Subject

Constitution of India, 1950: Articles 48A and 51A-State
to protect and improve environment-Fundamental duty of every
citizen to improve natural environment.
Environmental Law
Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
and Environment (Protection) Act, 1986:
'Environment'-Discharge of effluents from tannery into
the River Ganga-Necessity to establish primary treatment
plants-Closure of tanneries directed on failure to comply-
Life, health and ecology have great importance.
Practice and Procedure: Court can issue appropriate
directions if it finds public nuisance being committed and
statutory authorities not taking adequate steps to rectify
the grievance.





Citation

1988 AIR 1037, 1988( 1 )SCR 279, 1987( 4 )SCC 463, 1987( 2 )SCALE611 , 1987( 3 )JT 630



Head Notes

The petitioner, an active social worker, filed a
petition before this Court complaining that neither the
Government nor the people were giving adequate attention to
stop the pollution of the river Ganga and it was, therefore,
necessary to take steps for the purpose of protecting the
cleanliness of the stream in the river Ganga which was in
fact the life sustainer of a large part of the northern
India, and sought the issue of a writ/order/direction in the
nature of mandamus to the respondents other than respondents
Nos. 1 and 7 to 9 restraining them from letting out the
trade effluents into the river Ganga till such time they put
necessary treatment plants for treating the trade effluents
in order to arrest the pollution of water in the said river.
This Court directed issue of notice under order 1 Rule
8 of the
Code of Civil Procedure treating the case as a
representative action by publishing the gist of the petition
in the newspapers in circulation in northern India and
calling upon industrialists and the municipal corporations
and town municipal councils having jurisdiction over the
areas through which the river Ganga flows to appear before
the Court to show cause as to why direction should not be
issued as prayed for by the petitioner asking them not to
allow trade effluents and sewage into the river Ganga
without appropriately treating them before discharging them
into the river.
Pursuant to the aforesaid notice a large number of
industrialists and legal bodies entered appearance. Some
filed counter affidavits ex-plaining the steps taken by them
for treating trade effluents before discharging them into
the river.
The case against the tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur, was
first taken up by the Court for consideration. Forty three
respondents admitted in their counter affidavits that the
tanneries discharged their trade effluents into the sewage
nallah which led to the municipal sewage plant before they
were thrown into the river Ganga.
The Court was informed that six of the tanneries had
already set up and fourteen were engaged in construction of
primary treatment plants, and some others pleaded for time
to do so. It was submitted on behalf of the respondents that
it would not be possible for them to have secondary system
for treating waste water in view of the enormous expenditure
involved, which the tanneries would not be able to meet.
Some of the tanneries neither appeared nor were represented
by counsel in this Court.
Issuing interim directions, this Court,
^
HELD: 1.1 Article 48-A of the Constitution provides
that the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the
environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of
the country. Article 51-A of the Constitution imposes as one
of the fundamental duties on every citizen the duty to
protect and improve the natural environment including
forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have campassion
for living creatures. [285C-D]
Realising the importance of the prevention and control
of pollution of water for human existence, Parliament passed
the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974,
to provide for the
prevention and control of water pollution and the
maintaining or restoring of wholesomeness of water, for the
establishment, with a view to carrying out the purposes
aforesaid of Boards for the prevention and control of water
pollution, for conferring on and assigning to such Boards
powers and functions relating thereto and for matters
connected therewith Sections 16 and 17 of the Act describes
the functions of the Central and the State Board. The Act
was adopted by the State of Uttar Pradesh. In addition,
Parliament also passed the Environmental (Prevention) Act,
1986 which came into effect from November, 1986 throughout
India. [288B-D; 289A, F]
1.2 Notwithstanding the comprehensive provisions
contained in the Act of 1974, no effective steps appear to
have been taken by the State Board so far to prevent the
discharge of effluents of the Jajmau near Kanpur to the
river Ganga. The fact that such effluents are being first
discharged into the municipal sewerage does not absolve the
tanneries from being proceeded against under the provisions
of the law in force since ultimately the effluents reach the
river Ganga from the sewerage system of the municipality.
Not much has been done even under the Act of 1986 by the
Central Government to stop the grave public nuisance caused
by the tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur. [289-E; 290C]
1.3 There is no doubt that the discharge of the trade
effluents from the tanneries into the river Ganga has been
causing considerable damage to the life of the people who
use the water of the river and also to the aquatic life in
the river. The effluents discharged from a tannery is 10
times noxious when compared with the domestic sewage which
flows into the river from any urban area on its banks. The
tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur cannot be allowed to continue to
carry on the industrial activity unless they take steps to
establish primary treatment plant. [298E-F]
No doubt it may not be possible for the tanneries to
establish immediately the secondary system plant in view of
the large expenses involved, but having regard to the
adverse effect the effluents are having on the river water,
the tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur, should at least set up
primary treatment plants, which is the minimum that the
tanneries should do in the circumstances of the case. The
financial capacity of the tanneries should be considered as
irrelevant while requiring them to establish primary
treatment plants. Just like an industry which cannot pay
minimum wages to its workers cannot be allowed to exist, a
tannery, which cannot set up a primary treatment plant,
cannot be permitted to continue to be in existence for the
adverse
effect on the public at large which is likely to ensue by
the discharging of the trade effluents from the tannery to
the river Ganga would be immense and it will outweigh any
inconvenience that may be caused to the management and the
labour employed by it on account of its closure. Moreover,
the tanneries involved in this case are not taken by
surprise. For several years they are being asked to take
necessary steps to prevent the flow of untreated water from
their factories into the river. Some of them have already
complied with the demand. [298C-E]
1.4 In cases of this nature this Court may issue
appropriate directions if it finds that the public nuisance
or other wrongful act affecting or likely to affect public
is being committed and the statutory authorities which are
charged with the duty to prevent it are not taking adequate
steps to rectify the grivevance. For every breach of right
there should be a remedy. [298F-G]
It is unfortunate that a number of tanneries at Jajmau
even though they are aware of these proceedings have not
cared even to enter appearance in this Court to express
their willingness to take appropriate steps to establish the
pretreatment plants. So far as they are concerned, they are
directed to stop running of their tanneries and also not to
let out trade effluents either directly or indirectly into
the river Ganga without subjecting the trade effluents to a
pretreatment process by setting up primary treatment plants
as approved by the State Board with effect from October 1,
1987. Time granted till 31.3.1988 to other tanneries who are
members of the Hindustan Chambers of Commerce and the other
tanneries to establish primary treatment plants within six
months. If any of these tanneries does not set up a primary
treatment plant within 31.3.1988 such a tannery will stop
business with effect from 1.4.1988. [298G-H; 299D, G-H;
300A]
Such of those tanneries who have already put up primary
treatment plants may continue running provided they keep the
plants in sound working order.[299Fl
The Central Government, the Uttar Pradesh Board,
established under the provisions of the Water (Prevention
and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the District
Magistrate, Kanpur are directed to enforce this order. [30OB
l
Per Singh, J: (supplementing)
The pollution of the river Ganga is affecting the life,
health and
ecology of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. The (Government as well
as Parliament both have taken a number of steps to control
the water pollution, but nothing substantial has been
achieved. No law or authority can succeed in removing the
pollution unless the people cooperate. It is the sacred duty
of all those who reside or carry on business around the
river Ganga to ensure the purity of Ganga. Tanneries at
Jajmau area near Kanpur have been polluting the Ganga in a
big way. Though notices were issued many industrialists have
not bothered either to respond to the notice or to take
elementary steps for the treatment of industrial effluent
before discharging the same into the river. Those tanneries
which have failed to take minimum steps required for the
primary treatment of industrial effluent are directed to be
closed. No doubt closure of tanneries may bring
unemployment, loss of revenue, but life, health and ecology
have greater importance to the people. [301G-H; 302A-B]



Judgment Made On

22/09/1987

JUDGMENT:
ORIGINAL JURISDICTION: Writ Petition No. 3727 of 1985
Under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.
M.C. Mehta (Petitioner-in-person).
B. Datta, Additional Solicitor General, R.P. Kapur, P.P
Singh and Ms. A Subhashini for Respondent Nos. 2 and 3
R.A. Gupta for Respondent No. 87.
S.K. Dholakia, Deepak K. Thakur, Mukul Mudgal and P.
Narasimhan for Respondent No. 89.
Miss Bina Gupta, B.P. Singh, S.R. Srivastava, Krishan
Kumar, Vineet Kumar, R. Mohan, Mrs. Shobha Dikshit, A.
Sharan, D. Goburdhan, Mrs. G.S. Mishra, Parijat Sinha, R.C.
Verma, R.P. Singh, Ranjit Kumar, R.B. Mehrotra, Manoj Swarup
& Co. Raj Birbal, J.B.D. & Co. S.S. Khanduja, B.P Singh,
E.C. Aggrawala, Khaitan & Co., A.K. Srivastava, Swarup John
& Co., Mehta Dave, R.S. Sodhi, Subodh Markandey, T.V.S.N.
Chari, Ashok Grover, Narain and P.C. Kapur for the
Respondents.
B.R.L. Iyenger and Surya Kant for the Intervener.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
VENKATARAMIAH, J. This is a public interest litigation
The
284
petitioner who is an active social worker has filed this
petition inter alia for the issue of a writ/order/direction
in the nature of mandamus to the respondents other than
Respondents 1, and 7 to 9 restraining them from letting out
the trade effluents into the river Ganga till such time they
put up necessary treatment plants for treating the trade
effluents in order to arrest the pollution of water in the
said river. Respondent 1 is the Union of India, Respondent 7
is the Chairman of the Central Board for Prevention and
Control of Pollution, Respondent 8 is the Chairman, Uttar
Pradesh Pollution Control Board and Respondent 9 is the
Indian Standards Institute.
Water is the most important of the elements of nature.
River valleys are the credles of civilization from beginning
of the world. Aryan civilization grew around the towns and
villages on the banks of the river Ganga. Varanasi which is
one of the cities on the banks of the river Ganga is
considered to be one of the oldest human settlements in the
world. It is the popular belief that the river Ganga is the
purifier of all but we are now led to the situation that
action has to be taken to prevent the pollution of the water
of the river Ganga since we have reached a stage that any
further pollution of the river water is likely to lead to a
catastrophe. There are today large towns inhabited by
millions of people on the banks of the river Ganga. There
are also large industries on its banks. Sewage of the towns
and cities on the banks of the river and the trade effluents
of the factories and other industries are continuously being
discharged into the river. It is the complaint of the
petitioner that neither the Government nor the people are
giving adequate attention to stop the pollution of the river
Ganga. Steps have, therefore, to be taken for the purpose of
protecting the cleanliness of the stream in the river Ganga,
which is in fact the life sustainer of a large part of the
northern India.
When this petition came up for preliminary hearing, the
Court directed the issue of notice under order 1 rule 8 of
the Code of Civil Procedure treating this case as a
representative action by publishing the gist of the petition
in the newspapers in circulation in northern India and
calling upon all the industrialists and the municipal
corporations and the town municipal councils having
jurisdiction over the areas through which the river Ganga
flows to appear before the Court and to show cause as to why
directions should not be issued to them as prayed by the
petitioner asking them not to allow the trade effluents and
the sewage into the river Ganga without appropriately
treating them before discharging them into the river.
Pursuant to the said notice a large number of industrialists
and local bodies have entered
285
appearance before the Court. Some of them have filed
counteraffidavits explaining the steps taken by them for
treating the trade effluents before discharging t-hem into
the river. When the above case came up for consideration
before the Court on the last date of hearing we directed
that the case against the tanneries at Jajmau area near
Kanpur would be taken up for hearing first. Respondents 14
to 87 and 89 are the tanneries near Kanpur. Of them
respondents 16 to 32, 34 to 36, 43, 47, 51, 52, 54, 55, 57,
58, 60 to 62, 64, 67 to 69, 72, 74, 75, 77 to 82, 85, 87 and
89 are represented by counsel. The remaining tanneries did
not appear before the Court at the time of the hearing nor
were they represented by any counsel.
Before proceeding to consider the facts of this case it
is necessary to state a few words about the importance of
and need for protecting our environment. Article 48-A of the
Constitution provides that the State shall endeavour to
protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the
forests and wild life of the country. Article 51-A of the
Constitution imposes as one of the fundamental duties on
every citizen the duty to protect and improve the natural
environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life
and to have compassion for living creatures. The
proclamation adopted by the United Nations Conference on the
Human Environment which took place at Stockholm from 5th to
16th of June, 1972 and in which the Indian delegation led by
the Prime Minister of India took a leading role runs thus:
"1. Man is both creature and moulder of his
environment which gives him physical sustenance
and affords him the opportunity for intellectual,
moral, social and spiritual growth. In the long
and tortuous evolution of the human race on this
planet a stage has been reached when through the
rapid acceleration of science and technology, man
has acquired the power to transform his
environment in countless ways and on an
unprecedented scale. Both aspects of man's
environment, the natural and the man-made, are
essential to his well-being and to the enjoyment
of basic human rights-even the right to life
itself.
2. The protection and improvement of the
human environment is a major issue which affects
the well-being of peoples and economic development
throughout the world; it is the urgent desire of
the peoples of the whole world and the duty of all
Governments.
286
3. Man has constantly to sum up experience
and go on discovering, inventing, creating and
advancing. In our time man's capability to
transform his surroundings, if used wisely, can
bring to all peoples the benefits of development
and the opportunity to enhance the quality of
life. Wrongly or heedlessly applied, the same
power can do incalculable harm to human beings and
the human environment. We see around us growing
evidence of man-made harm in many regions of the
earth; dangerous levels of pollution in water,
air, earth and living beings; major and
undesirable disturbances to the ecological balance
of the biosphere; destruction and depletion of
irreplaceable resources; and gross deficiencies
harmful to the physical, mental and social health
of man, in the man-made environment; particularly
in the living and working environment.
A point has been reached in history when we
must shape our actions throughout the world with a
more prudent care for their environmental
consequences. Through ignorance or indifference we
can do massive and irreversible harm to the
earthly environment on which our life and well-
being depend. Conversely, through fuller knowledge
and wiser action, we can achieve for ourselves and
our posterity a better life in an environment more
in keeping with human needs and hopes. There are
broad vistas for the enhancement of environmental
quality and the creation of a good life. What is
needed is an enthusiastic but calm state of mind
and intense but orderly work. For the purpose of
attaining freedom in the world of nature, man must
use knowledge to build in collaboration with
nature a better environment. To defend and improve
the human environment for present and future
generations has become an imperative goal for
mankind-a goal to be pursued together with, and in
harmony with, the established and fundamental
goals of peace and of world-wide economic and
social development.
To achieve this environmental goal will
demand the acceptance of responsibility by
citizens and communities and by enterprises and
institutions at every level, all sharing equitably
in common efforts. Individuals in all walks of
life as well as organizations in many fields, by
their values and the sum of their actions, will
shape the world environ-
287
ment of the future. Local and National Governments
will bear the greatest burden for large-scale
environmental policy and action within their
jurisdictions. International co-operation is also
needed in order to raise resources to support the
developing countries carrying out their
responsibilities in this field. A growing class of
environmental problems, because they are regional
or global in extent or because they affect the
common international realm, will require extensive
co-operation among nations and action by
international organizations in the common
interest. The Conference calls upon the
Governments and peoples to exert common efforts
for the preservation and improvement of the human
environment, for the benefit of all the people and
for their posterity."
The proclamation also contained certain
common convictions of the participant nations and
made certain recommendations on development and
environment. The common convictions stated include
the conviction that the discharge of toxic
substances or of other substances and the release
of heat in such quantities or concentrations as to
exceed the capacity of environment to render them
harmless must be halted in order to ensure that
serious or irreversible damage is not inflicted
upon eco systems, that States shall take all
possible steps to prevent pollution of the seas so
that hazards to human health, harm to living
resources and marine life, damage to the amenities
or interference with other legitimate uses of seas
is avoided that the environmental policies would
enhance and not adversely affect the present and
future development potential of development
countries, that science and technology as part of
their contributions to economic and social
development must be applied with identification,
avoidance and control of environmental risks and
the solution of environmental problems and for the
common good of mankind, that States have the
responsibility to ensure that activities of
exploitation of their own resources within their
jurisdiction are controlled and do not cause
damage to the environment of other States or areas
beyond the limit of national jurisdiction, that it
will be essential in all cases to consider the
systems of values prevailing in each country and
the extent of the applicability of standards which
are valid for the most advanced countries but
which may be inappropriate
288
and of unwarranted social cost and that man and
his environment must be spared the effects of
nuclear weapons and all other means of mass
destruction. These are only some of the statements
of principles proclaimed by the Stockholm
Conference.
(Vide Lal's Commentaries on Water and Air
Pollution Laws (2nd Edn. ) pages 6-7
Realising the importance of the prevention and control
of pollution of water for human existence Parliament has
passed the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act,
1974 (Act 6 of 1974) (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act')
to provide for the prevention and control of water pollution
and the maintaining or restoring of wholesomeness of water,
for the establishment, with a view to carrying out the
purposes aforesaid, of Boards for the prevention and control
of water pollution, for conferring on and assigning to such
Boards powers and functions relating thereto and for matters
connected therewith. The Act was passed pursuant to
resolutions passed by all the Houses of Legislatures of the
States of Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh,
Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh,
Rajasthan, Tripura and West Bengal under clause (1) of
Article 252 of the Constitution to the effect that the
prevention and control of water pollution should be
regulated in those States by Parliamentary legislation. The
Act has been since adopted by the State of Uttar Pradesh
also by resolutions passed in that behalf by the Houses of
Legislature of the said State in the year 1975 (vide
notification No. 897/ix-3-l00-74 dated 3.2.1975). Section 24
of the Act prohibits the use of any stream or well for
disposal of polluting matter etc. It provides that subject
to the provisions of the said section no person shall
knowingly cause or permit any poisonous, noxious or
polluting matter determined in accordance with such
standards as may be laid down by the State Board to enter
whether directly or indirectly into any stream or well or no
person shall knowingly cause or permit to enter into any
stream any other matter which may tend either directly or in
combination with similar matters to impede the proper flow
of the water of the stream in a manner leading or likely to
lead to a substantial aggravation of pollution due to other
causes or of its consequences. The expression stream is
defined by section 2(j) of the Act as including river, water
course whether flowing or for the time being dry, inland
water whether natural or artificial, sub-terranean waters,
sea or tidal waters to such extent or as the case may be to
such point as the State Government may by notification in
the official Gazette,
289
specify in that behalf. Under the Act it is permissible to
establish a Central Board and the State Boards. The
functions of the Central Board and the State Boards are
described in section 16 and 17 respectively. One of the
functions of the State Board is to inspect sewage or trade
effluents, works and plants for the treatment of sewage and
trade effluents, and to review plans, specifications or
other data relating to plants set up for the treatment of
water, works for the purification and the system for the
disposal of sewage or trade effluents. 'Trade effluent'
includes any liquid, gaseous or solid substance which is
discharged from any premises used for carrying on any trade
or industry, other than domestic sewage. The State Board is
also entrusted with the work of laying down standards of
treatment of sewage and trade effluents to be discharged
into any particular stream taking into account the minimum
fair weather dilution available in that stream and the
tolerance limits of pollution permissible in the water of
the stream, after the discharge of such effluents. The State
Board is also entrusted with the power of making application
to courts for restraining apprehended pollution of water in
streams or wells. Notwithstanding the comprehensive
provisions contained in the Act no effective steps appear to
have been taken by the State Board so far to prevent the
discharge of effluents of the Jajmau near Kanpur to the
river Ganga. The fact that such effluents are being first
discharged into the municipal sewerage does not absolve the
tanneries from being proceeded against under the provisions
of the law in force since ultimately the effluents reach the
river Ganga from the sewerage system of the municipality.
In addition to the above Act, Parliament has also
passed the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (29 of 1986)
which has been brought into force throughout India with
effect from November 19, 1986. Section 3 of this Act confers
power on the Central Government to take all such measures as
it deems necessary or expedient for the purpose of
protecting and improving the quality of the environment and
preventing, controlling and abating environmental pollution.
'Environment' includes water, air and land and the inter-
relationship which exists among and between water, air and
land and human beings, other living creatures, plants,
micro-organism and property. (Vide section 2(a) of the
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986). Under Section 3(2)(iv)
of the said Act the Central Government may lay down
standards for emission or discharge of environmental
pollutants from various sources whatsoever. Notwithstanding
anything contained in any other law but subject to the
provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the
Central Government may under section S of the
290
Act, in the exercise of its powers and performance of its
functions under that Act issue directions in writing to any
person, officer or authority and such authority is bound to
comply with such directions. The power to issue directions
under the said section includes the power to direct the
closure, prohibition or regulation of any industry,
operation or process or stoppage or regulation of the supply
of electricity or water or any other service. Section 9 of
the said Act imposes a duty on every person to take steps to
prevent or mitigate the environmental pollution. Section 15
of the said Act contains provisions relating to penalties
that may be imposed for the contravention of any of the
provisions of the said Act or directions issued thereunder.
It is to be noticed that not much has been done even under
this Act by the Central Government to stop the grave public
nuisance caused by the tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur.
All the tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur which were
represented by counsel, except respondent Nos. 87 and 89
have relied upon a common counter-affidavit filed by them
and their case is argued by Shri S.K. Dholakia and Shri
Mukul Mudgal. Respondent No. 87 is represented by Shri R.P.
Gupta and respondent No. 89 is represented by Shri P.
Narasimhan. There is not much dispute on the question that
the discharge of the trade effluents from these tanneries
into the river Ganga has been causing considerable damage to
the life of the people who use the water of the river Ganga
and also to the aquatic life in the river. The tanneries at
Jajmau in Kanpur have themselves formed an association
called Jajmau Tanners Pollution Control Association with the
objects among others:
(1) To establish, equip and maintain laboratories,
workshop, institutes, organisations and factories for
conducting and carrying on p experiments and to provide
funds for the main objects of the Company.
(2) To procure and import wherever necessary the
chemicals etc. for the purpose of pollution control in
tanning industries.
(3) To set up and maintain common effluent treatment
plant for member tanners in and around Jajmau.
(4) To make periodical charges on members for the
effluent treatment based on the benefit he/it derives from
time to time to meet the common expenses for maintenance,
replacement incurred towards effluent treatment.
291
In the Fiscal Plan for setting up common Effluent
Treatment Plants for Indian Tanning Industry-(March, 1986)
prepared by the committee constituted by the Directorate
General of Technical Development (Government of India) it is
observed thus:-
"Leather industry is one of the three major
industries besides paper and textiles consuming
large quantities of water for processing of hides
and skins into leather Naturally most of the water
used is discharged as wastewater. The wastewater
contains putrescible organic and toxic inorganic
materials which when discharged as such will
deplete dissolved oxygen content of the receiving
water courses resulting in the death of all
acquatic life and emanating foul odour. Disposal
of these untreated effluents on to land will
pollute the ground water resources. Discharging of
these effluents without treatment into public
sewers results in the choking of sewers.
Realising the importance of keeping the
environment clean, the Government of India has
enacted the Water Pollution Control Act (Central
Act 6 of 1974) and almost all the State Government
have adopted the Act and implementing the Act by
forming the Pollution Control Boards in their
respective states. The Pollution Control Boards
have been insisting that all industries have to
treat their effluents to the prescribed standards
and leather industry is no exception to this rule.
Tanneries situated all over the country have been
faced with the problem of treating their
effluents. Seized with the problem of finding out
a solution, the Central Leather Research
Institute, Madras has brought out a Management
Investment Report (CLRI Core Committee Report) as
early as 1976 which contains 14 flow sheets
indicating the treatment technologies for various
types of leather processing techniques, quantity
of effluents etc. including the cost of
treatment."
A monograph entitled 'Treatment Technology of Tannery
Effluents' prepared by S. Rajamani, W. Madavakrishna and G.
Thyagarajan of the Central Leather Research Institute,
Adyar, Madras states that generally the wastewater from beam
house process namely soaking, liming, deliming etc. are
highly alkaline containing decomposing organic matter, hair,
lime sulphide etc. and is nearly ten times as strong as
domestic sewage and refers to the various methods
292
by which the effluents of the tanneries could be treated
before their discharge into any river. They recommend four
types of wastewater treatment technology so far as the
tanneries are concerned -1) segregation or mixing of
suitable sectional waste water from different processes; (2)
primary treatment; (3) secondary biological treatment; and
(4) disposal of solid wastes from the treatment system. The
said monograph explains the work at the primary treatment
unit thus:-
"The primary treatment units principally comprise
of coarse screens, two numbers of settling tanks
and sludge drying beds. The settling tank, each of
about 1-2 days capacity acts as an equalisation-
cum-setting tank as well. As an alternative,
clarifier can be provided in place of settling
tank for treating higher capacity effluents.
Depending on the quality of composite effluent,
addition of neutralising chemicals like lime,
alum, ferric chloride etc. would be required for
effective precipitation of chromium and removal of
suspended solids in the sedimentation process. The
sludge from the settling tanks and clarifier is
removed and dried on sludge drying beds made up of
filtering media gravel, sand and supporting
masonary structure. For operational reasons,
sludge drying beds are divided into four or more
compartments. The dried sludge from the sludge
drying beds can be used as manure or for landfill
if it is vegetable tannery waste. In case of
chrome tannery waste, the dried sludge should be
buried or disposed off suitably as per the
directions of regulatory agencies and local
bodies. "
The secondary treatment units are explained in the said
monograph thus:
"The pre-treated effluent needs suitable
secondary biological treatment to meet the
pollution control standards. The general
biological treatment units which can be adopted
under Indian conditions are anaerobic lagoon,
aerated lagoon, extended aeration systems like
oxidation ditch, activated sludge process etc.
Anaerobic lagoon is a simple anaerobic
treatment unit suitable for effluents with high
BOD like vegetable tannery (Raw to E. 1)
wastewater. In depth of the lagoon varies from 3-5
metres and detention time from l0-20 days
293
depending upon the pollutional load and
atmospheric conditions. This is an open type
digester with no provision for gas collection. No
power is required for this system and its
performance is proved to be efficient in South
Indian conditions.
Anaerobic contract filter is also an
anaerobic treatment unit. This is a closed tank
type unit made up of R.C.C. Or masonry structure
filled up with media like broken granite stones
etc. This unit occupies less land area since the
detention time is about 1-2 days only. This system
is reported to be efficient for treating high
organic load, but the capital cost would be
comparatively high.
Aerated lagoon is a shallow water tight pond
of about 2-3 metres depth with a detention time of
about 4-6 days. Fixed or floating type surface
aerators are provided to transfer oxygen from
atmospheric air to the effluent for biological
treatment using micro-organisms under aerobic
conditions. The system is suitable for treating
low organic load.
Extended aeration systems like 'activated
sludge process' and 'oxidation ditch' are the
improved aerobic biological treatment systems
occupying less land area since the detention
time/capacity would be only about 1-2 days. These
units require secondary settling tank and sludge
recirculation arrangements. Extended aeration
systems are proved to be efficient. The
operational and maintenance cost is comparatively
high for smaller installations, but economical for
treatment capacity of 150 M3 and above per day. "
A study of the conditions prevailing at Jajmau, Kanpur
was made by the Sub-Committee on Effluent Disposal
constituted by the Development Council for Leather and
Leather Goods Industries along with the various tanneries
situated in some other parts of India and in its report
submitted in April, 1984, the Sub-Committee has observed in
the case of the tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur thus:-
"In the case of Jajmau, Kanpur, the committee
visited few tanneries where the effort has been
made to have primary treatment of the effluent
before it is dis-
294
charged to the common drain/the river Ganges.
There are 60 tanneries in Jajmau which will be
covered under joint effluent disposal. The total
production is to the tune of 12000 hides with a
total discharge of 5 million litres per day. The
State Government has taken appropriate steps in
preparation of the feasibility report under the
guidance of U.P. Pollution Control Board. This
proposal was also supported by Central Pollution
Board, Delhi by sharing the total fee of Rs.80,000
to be paid to the Public Health Engineering
Consultancy, Bombay which has prepared the report
with the help of IIT, Bombay. The report suggests
that each tannery should make arrangement for the
primary treatment of their effluent and then it
will be discharged into common treatment plant."
There is a reference to the Jajmau tanneries in 'an
Action Plan for Prevention of Pollution of the Ganga'
prepared by the Department of Environment, Government of
India in the year 1985, which is as under:-
"1.1 The Ganga drains eight States Himachal
Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh,
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and
the Union Territory of Delhi. It is also the most
important river of India and has served as the
cradle of Indian Civilization. Several major
pilgrim centres have existed on its banks for
centuries and millions of people come to bathe in
the river during religious festivals, especially
the Kumbhs of Haridwar and Allahabad. Many towns
on the Ganga, e.g., Kanpur. Allahabad, Patna and
Calcutta have very large populations and the river
also serves as the source of water supply for
these towns. The Ganga is, however, being grossly
polluted especially near the towns situated on its
banks. Urgent steps need to be taken to prevent
this pollution and restore the purity of river
water.
2.0. Sources of Pollution
2.1 The main sources of pollution of the Ganga are
the following:-
Urban liquid waste (Sewage, storm drainage
mixed with sewage, human, cattle and kitchen
wastes carried by drains etc. )
295
Industrial liquid waste A
Surface run-off of cultivated land where
cultivators use chemical fertilisers, pesticides,
insecticides and such manures the mixing of which
may make the river water unsafe for drinking and
bathing.
Surface run-off from areas on which urban
solid wastes are dumped
Surface run-off from areas on which
industrial solid wastes are dumped
.........................................
4.4.12 Effluent from industries:
Under the laws of the land the responsibilty
for treatment of the industrial effluents is that
of the industry. While the concept of 'Strict
Liability' should be adhered to in some cases,
circumstances may require that plans for sewerage
and treatment systems should consider industrial
effluents as well. Clusters of small industries
located in a contiguous area near the river bank
and causing direct pollution to the river such as
the tanneries in Jajmau in Kanpur is a case in
point. In some cases, waste waters from some
industrial units may have already been connected
to the city sewer and, therefore, merit treatment
along with the sewage in the sewage treatment
plant. It may also be necessary in some crowded
areas to accept wastewaters of industries in a
city sewer to be fed to the treatment plant,
provided the industrial waste is free from heavy
metals, toxic chemicals and is not abnormally
acidic or alkaline.
In such circumstances, scheme proposals have
to carefully examine the case of integrating or
segregating industrial wastes for purposes of
conveyance and treatment as also the possibilities
for appointment of capital and operating costs
between the city authorities and the industries
concerned." (emphasis added)
Appearing on behalf of the Department of Environment,
(Government of India, Shri B. Dutta the learned Ist
Additional H
296
Solicitor General of India placed before us a memorandum
explaining the existing situation at Jajmau area of Kanpur.
It reads thus:
"Status regarding construction of treatment
facilities for treatment of wastes from Tanneries
in Jajmau area of Kanpur.
1. About 70 small, medium and large tanneries
are located in Jajmau area of Kanpur. On an
average they generate 4.5 MLD of waste water.
2. Under the existing laws, tanneries like
other industries are expected to provide treatment
of their effluents to different standards
depending on whether these are discharged into
stream or land. It is the responsibility of the
industry concerned to ensure that the quality of
the wastewater conforms to the standards laid down
3. From time to time, tanneries of Kanpur
have re presented that due to lack of physical
facilities, technical knowhow and funds, it has
not been possible to install adequate treatment
facilities.
4. Jajmau is an environmentally degraded area
of Kanpur. The location of numerous tanneries in
the area is a major cause of the degradation.
Civic facilities for water supply, sanitation,
solid waste removal etc. are also highly
inadequate. Because the area abuts the Ganga
river, its pollution affects the river quality as
well. Accordingly, under the Ganga Action Plan an
integrated sanitation project is being taken up
for the Jajmau area. Some aspects of the Plan
relate to tannery wastes as follows:
(i) The medium and large units will have to
up pre treatment facilities to ensure that the
standard of sewage discharged into the municipal
sewer also conform to the standards laid down.
Scientific institutions such as Central Leather
Research Institute are looking into the
possibility of pretreatment including recovery of
materials such as chromium. The setting up of pre-
treatment facility in the respective units will be
the responsibility of the individual units
concerned. The Ganga Project Directorate as part
of the Ganga Action Plan, will play a facilitative
role to
297
demonstrate application of modern technologies for
cost A effective pre-treatment which the small
tanners can afford.
(ii) Since the wastes will be ultimately
discharged into the river, the waste will have to
further conform to the standards laid down for
discharge into the stream. For this purpose, it
will be necessary to treat the waste further and
as part of the Ganga Action Plan a treatment plant
will be constructed for this purpose utilising
some advanced processes. It is also proposed to
combine the domestic waste with the industrial
waste conveyed through the industrial sewer which
will then be treated in a treatment plant
(iii) It is estimated that cost of this
proposed sewage treatment facility which will
treat the waste from the domestic sources and the
pretreated wastes from tanneries will be about
Rs.2.5 crores. It will have a capacity of 25 MLD
and the first demonstration module of about 5 MLD
is expected to be installed in early 1988-89.
Necessary work for designing of the plant has
already been initiated and the infrastructure
facilities such as availability of land, soil
testing etc. have also been ensured. Tender
specifications are being provided and it is
expected that the tenders will be floated sometime
in October 87. It is expected that in the combined
treatment facility of 25 MLD, about 20 MLD will be
from the domestic sources and 5 MLD will be from
the tanneries after pretreatment in the region."
In the counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the
Hindustan Chambers of Commerce, of which 43 respondents are
members it is admitted that the tanneries discharge their
trade effluents into the sewage nullah which leads to the
municipal sewage plant before they are thrown into the river
Ganga. It is not disputed by any of the respondents that the
water in the river Ganga is being polluted grossly by the
effluent discharged by the tanneries. We are informed that
six of the tanneries have already set up the primary
treatment plants for carrying out the pre-treatment of the
effluent before it is discharged into the municipal Sewerage
which ultimately leads to the river Ganga. About 14 of the
tanneries are stated to be engaged in the construction of
the primary treatment plants. It is pleaded on behalf of the
rest of the tanneries who are the members of the Hindustan
Chambers of Commerce and three other tanneries represented
by Shir Mukul Mudgal that if some time is given to them to
establish the pre-treatment plants they would H
298
do so. lt is, however, submitted by all of them that it
would not be possible for them to have the secondary system
for treating wastewater as that would involve enormous
expenditure which the tanneries themselves would not be able
to meet. It is true that it may not be possible for the
tanneries to establish immediately the secondary system
plant in view of the large expenditure involved but having
regard to the adverse effect the effluents are having on the
river water, the tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur should, at
least set up of the primary treatment plants and that is the
minimum which the tanneries should do in the circumstances
of the case. In the counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the
Hindustan Chamber of Commerce it is seen that the cost of
pretreatment plant for a 'A' class tannery is Rs.3,68,000,
the cost of the plant for a 'B' class tannery is Rs.2,30,000
and the cost of the plant for 'C' class tannery is Rs.50,000
This cost does not appear to be excessive. The financial
capacity of the tanneries should be considered as irrelevant
while requiring them to establish primary treatment plants.
Just like an industry which cannot pay minimum wages to its
workers cannot be allowed to exist a tannery which cannot
set up a primary treatment plant cannot be permitted to
continue to be in existence for the adverse effect on the
public at large which is likely to ensue by the discharging
of the trade effluents from the tannery to the river Ganga
would be immense and it will outweigh any inconvenience that
may be caused to the management and the labour employed by
it on account of its closure. Moreover, the tanneries
involved in these cases are not taken by surprise. For
several years they are being asked to take necessary steps
to prevent the flow of untreated wastewater from their
factories into the river. Some of them have already complied
with the demand. It should be remembered that the effluent
discharged from a tannery is ten times noxious when compared
with the domestic sewage water which flows into the river
from any urban areas on its banks. We feel that the
tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur cannot be allowed to continue to
carry on the industrial activity unless they take steps to
establish primary treatment plants. In cases of this nature
this Court may issue appropriate directions if it finds that
the public nuisance or other wrongful act affecting or
likely to affect the public is being committed and the
statutory authorities who are charged with the duty to
prevent it are not taking adequate steps to rectify the
grievance. For every breach of a right there should be a
remedy. It is unfortunate that a number of tanneries at
Jajmau even though they are aware of these proceedings have
not cared even to enter appearance in this Court to express
their willingness to take appropriate steps to establish the
pretreatment plants. So far as they are concerned an order
directing them to stop working their tanneries should be
passed.
299
We accordingly direct M/s. Delight Tannery (respondent 14),
M/s. Hindustan Tannery (respondent 15), M/s. Primer Allarmin
Tannery (respondent 33), M/s. Mahaboob Tannery (respondent
37), M/s. Popular Tannery (respondent 38), M/s. Standard
Tannery (respondent 39), M/s. Vikash Tarmery (respondent
40), M/s. New Golden Tannery (respondent 41), M/s. D.D.
Tannery (respondent 42), M/s. Himalaya Tannery (respondent
44), M/s. Commercial Industry (respondent 45), M/s. Madina
Tannery (respondent 46), M/s. Kanpur Tannery (respondent
48), M/s. New Jab Tannery (respondent 49), M/s. Famous
Tannery (respondent 50), M/s. Glaxy Tannery (respondent 53),
M/s. Bengal Tannery (respondent 56), M/s. Chhangal Tannery
(respondent 59), M/s.Nadari Tannery (respondent 63), M/s.
Jajmau Tanners (respondent 65), M/s. International Tanning
Industry (respondent 66), M/s. Poorwanchal Tanning Industry
(respondent 70), M/s. Navratan Tanning (respondent 71), M/s.
Haroou Tannery (respondent 73), M/s. Himalaya Tanners
(respondent 76), M/s. R.A. Traders (respondent 79, M/s. Alam
Tannery (respondent 83), M/s. G.T. Tannery (respondent 84),
and M/s. Awadh Tannery (respondent 86) to stop the running
of their tanneries and also not to let out trade effluents
from their tanneries either directly or indirectly into the
river Ganga without subjecting the trade effluents to a
pretreatment process by setting up primary treatment plants
as approved by the State Board (respondent 8) with effect
from 1. l0.1987.
M/s. Indian Tanning Industry (respondent 30), the U.P.
Tannery (respondent 19), M/s. Zaz Tannery (respondent 28),
M/s. Super Tannery India Ltd. (respondent 21), M/s. Shewan
Tannery (respondent 20), M/s. Pioneer Tannery (respondent
23), and M/s. M.K.J. Corporation (respondent 89) who have
already put up the primary treatment plants may continue to
carry on production in their factories subject to the
condition that they should continue to keep the primary
treatment plants established by them in sound working order.
Shri S.K. Dholakia, learned counsel for the other
tanneries who are members of the Hindustan Chambers of
Commerce and the other tanneries who have entered appearance
through Shri Mukul Mudgal submits that they will establish
primary treatment plants within six months and he further
submits that in the event of their not completing the
construction of the primary treatment plants as approved by
the State Board (respondent 8) and bringing them into
operation within the period of six months the said tanneries
will stop carrying on their business. We record the
statement made by the learned counsel and grant them time
till 31.3.1988 to set up the primary treatment plants. If
300
any of these tanneries does not set up a primary treatment
plant within 31.3.1988 it is directed to stop its business
with effect from 1.4.1988.
We issue a direction to the Central Government, the
Uttar Pradesh Board, established under the provisions of the
Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and
the District Magistrate, Kanpur to enforce our order
faithfully. Copies of this order shall be cent to them for
information
The case is adjourned to 27th October, 1987 to consider
the case against the municipal bodies in the State of Uttar
Pradesh having jurisdiction over the areas through which the
river Ganga is passing.
SINGH, J. I respectfully agree with every word what my
learned brother Venkataramiah, J. has stated in the proposed
order and the directions issued by that order. However, I
wish to add few words.
The river Ganga is one of the greatest rivers of the
world, although its entire course is only 1560 miles from
its source in Himalaya to the sea. There are many rivers
larger in shape and longer in size but no river in the world
has been so great as the Ganga. It is great because to
millions of people since centuries it is the most sacred
river. It is called "Sursari" river of the Gods,
'Patitpawani' purifier of all sins and 'Ganga Ma' Mother
Ganges. To millions of Hindus, it is the most sacred, most
venerated river on earth. According the Hindu belief and
mythology to bathe in it, is to wash away guilt, to drink
the water, having bathed in it, and to carry it away in
containers for those who may have not had the good fortune
to make the pilgrimage, to it, is meritorious. To be
cremated on its banks, or to die there, and to have one's
ashes cast on its waters, is the wish of every Hindu. Many P
saints and sages have persued their quest for knowledge and
enlightenment on the banks of the river Ganga. Its water has
not only purified the body and soul of the millions but it
has given fertile land to the country in Uttar Pradesh and
Bihar. Ganga has been used as means of water transport for
trade and commerce. The Indian civilization of the Northern
India thrived in the plains of Ganga and most of the
important towns and places of pilgrimage are situated on its
banks. The river Ganga has been part of Hindu civilization.
Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru who did not consider himself a devout
Hindu gave expression to his feelings for the Ganga that is
to be found in his Will and Testament, a short extract from
which is as under:
"My desire to have a handful of my ashes thrown
into the
301
Ganga at Allahabad has no religious significance, so
far as I am concerned. I have no religious sentiment in
the matter. I have been attached to the Ganga and the
Jamuna rivers in Allahabad ever since my childhood and,
as I have grown older, this attachment has also grown.
I have watched their varying moods as the seasons
changed, and have often thought of the history and myth
and tradition and song and story that have become
attached to them through the long ages and become part
of their flowing waters. The Ganga, especially, as the
river of India, beloved of her people, round which are
intertwined her racial memories, her hopes and fears,
her songs of triumph, her victories and her defeats.
She has been a symbol of India's age-long culture and
civilization, ever-changing, ever-flowing, and yet ever
the same Ganga. She reminds me of the snow-covered
peaks and the deep valleys of the Himalayas, which I
have loved so much, and of the rich and vast plains
below, where my life and work have been cast."
The river Ganga is the life line of millions of people
of India, Indian culture and civilization has grown around
it. This great river drains of eight States of India,
Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan,
Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The Ganga has always
been an integral part of the nation's history, culture and
environment. It has been the source of sustenance of the
millions of people who have lived on its banks from time
immemorial.
Millions of our people bathe in the Ganga drink its
water under an abiding faith and belief to purify themselves
and to achieve moksha release from the cycle of birth and
death. It is tragic that the Ganga, which has since time
immemorial, purified the people is being polluted by man in
numerous ways, by dumping of garbage, throwing carcass of
dead animals and discharge of effluents. Scientific
investigations and survey reports have shown that the Ganga
which serves one-third of the India's population is polluted
by the discharge of municipal sewage and the industrial
effluents in the river. The pollution of the river Ganga is
affecting the life, health, and ecology of the Indo-Gangetic
Plain. The Government as well as Parliament both have taken
a number of steps to control the water pollution, but
nothing substantial has been achieved. I need not refer to
those steps as my learned brother has referred to them in
detail. No law or authority can succeed in removing the
pollution unless the people cooperate. To my mind, it is the
sacred duty of all those who reside or carry on business
around
302
the river Ganga to ensure the purity of Ganga. Tanneries at
Jajmau area near Kanpur have been polluting the Ganga in a
big way. This Court issued notices to them but in spite of
notice many industrialists have not bothered either to
respond to the notice or to take elementary steps for the
treatment of industrial effluent before discharging the same
into the river. We are therefore issuing the directions for
the closure of those tanneries which have failed to take
minimum steps required for the primary treatment of
industrial effluent. We are conscious that closure of
tanneries may bring unemployment, loss of revenue, but life,
health and ecology have greater importance to the people.
N.P.V.
303





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